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Pritzker-winning Japanese architect Isozaki dies at 91: local media

Pritzker-winning Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, known for his avant-garde style and category-defying works, has died at the age of 91 in Okinawa, local media said Friday.

His office did not immediately respond to requests to confirm the news, which was reported by national broadcaster NHK and others.

Local media said Isozaki had died on Wednesday. 

Isozaki was seen as a post-modern giant who combined influences from Asian and Western culture and history in his designs, at a time when US and European styles dominated global architecture.

A protege of the legendary Kenzo Tange, the first Japanese architect to win the Pritzker Prize, Isozaki’s best-known works include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, as well as the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, which was designed for the 1992 Summer Olympics.

He was also behind the Team Disney Building, the administrative headquarters for the Walt Disney Company in Florida, among other iconic structures.

Born in Oita, southwestern Japan, in 1931, Isozaki was also an influential author and social critic.

He was 14 when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed, and the post-war ruins of Japan stayed with him.

“I grew up near ground zero. It was in complete ruins, and there was no architecture, no buildings and not even a city,” he said.

“So, my first experience of architecture was the void of architecture, and I began to consider how people might rebuild their homes and cities.”

In awarding him the 2019 award, the Pritzker committee praised the blend of influences seen in his work.

“Isozaki was one of the first Japanese architects to build outside of Japan during a time when Western civilizations traditionally influenced the East,” said Tom Pritzker, chairman of Hyatt Foundation, the award’s sponsor.

Isozaki’s work “was distinctively influenced by his global citizenry — truly international,” he added. 

The jury described his architecture as work that “never merely replicated the status quo”.

“His search for meaningful architecture was reflected in his buildings that, to this day, defy stylistic categorisations.”

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